The Random Folder

Download your random quotes here: #summerblog

As I mentioned in my post yesterday about the Random Quote for Email Signatures , I have a lot of quotes that I have collected from various places over the years. Many of them came from LeadershipFreak on Twitter. And many came from sources that I can't remember now.

If you would like to try it out for yourself, read the post from yesterday, and then feel free to use the TextExpander folder that I created from my list of quotes. Leave your great quotes in the comments. I'll add them to it.

Have a Good Life.

"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." - Jack Welsh

Random Quote for Email Signatures

Add a random quote to every email @macdrifter @smilesoftware @keyboardmaestro #summerblog12

I’ve been collecting quotes for a long time. I don’t know how many I have, but there are a lot of them. If I were to print out the text document that they are all saved in, it would be 34 pages.

Here are a couple random quotes:
“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” - Bill Moyers 
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” - Joseph Chilton Pierce 
“Creativity is discontent translated into arts.” - Eric Hoffer
“Things are only impossible until they’re not.” - Jean-Luc Picard
I’ve seen a lot of people put quotes at the bottom of their emails, and if they are lucky, they remember to change them every six months or so. I even get sick of my signature quotes, so I can’t imagine how those who get my emails feel. And I know I get sick of seeing the same ones on others’ emails. So, while trying to learn about something else, I stumbled across the SmileSoftware blog, and I found this particularly useful blog post. Turns out, this is really easy to implement. All you have to do is create a group called “Random” and add your quotes to that group. You don’t even have to create an abbreviation for the quotes.

Then, you create a snippet called “rrand”, or something like that. And change the content to Applescript (This part is pretty important, so don’t forget to do that.)

Then, you insert this code as the content, with “rrand” as the abbreviation:

tell application "TextExpander"

    set groupCount to count (snippets of group "Random")

set randomIndex to random number from 1 to groupCount

    return plain text expansion of ¬

        snippet randomIndex of group "Random"

end tell

That is all on the Smile blog.

The next part is what is really cool. I use Keyboard Maestro, which actually took me a long time to get into it. I found a bunch of helpful hints and helps on Macdrifter. So, I thought I would add to what I have learned from Gabe, and see if it would work.

What this does is adds a random quote to the end of my email, and then sends it when I press CMD+SHIFT+F. I chose that because I send emails in via the shortcut CMD+SHIFT+D, and F is really close to D, so I still retain the option of not adding a quote if I don’t want to. However, it is so easy to do, that I think I will add quotes to the bottom of all my emails.

A couple geeky notes about the Keyboard Maestro Macro.

I had to choose “Type Keystroke” instead of “Insert Text” because TextExpander wouldn’t expand “rrand” unless I did the keystrokes for each letter. Also, using the “CMD+Down Arrow” keystroke forces the cursor to go to the bottom of the email, regardless of what is there. If I already have a signature, there are a few returns built into that so there is always room for a quote.

If I wanted to do this in Outlook, I would just change the last action from “Type the CMD+SHIFT+D Keystroke” to “Type the CMD+Return Keystroke”, and it would work the same way.

This was a pretty fun thing to do. As I use some of these new-to-me tools I realize how much fun it is to tweak with my computer and make it work for me.

Thanks to macdrifter, Smile Software, and Keyboard Maestro for helping me control my computer.

Have a Good Life.

A PBIS Moment

PBIS isn’t just for kids, or for school. It works everywhere, even when going to the dentist.  #summerblog12

Going to the dentist

When I was in Novosibirsk, Russia, serving a mission for my church, I had a tooth problem. My whole inside of my tooth chipped off, and I needed to see a dentist. I’ve never enjoyed going to the dentist, but this was a whole new level of craziness for me. I went to the best dentist I could find. The Russians said “This is a really good one because they use tools from Germany!” So, I went. The female dentist kindly informed me that I would need a root canal. I was not looking forward to that, but we went ahead and did it.

You can probably guess where this is going. The root canal did not go over very well. They did not get all the nerves out, and as they were filling the canals, the pain was so intense that I passed out. It was only the second time I have ever passed out in my life. It was the most pain I have ever felt. Ever.

When I awoke, I was sweaty, cold, and the dental assistant was rubbing my temples, asking me if I was OK. I again reiterated that I needed some novocaine, or anything to dull the intense pain. They finally agreed to give me some.

Since then, I have a very hard time going to the dentist, and what is worse, they always tell me that I have cavities, I need to floss after every meal, and I need to stop clenching my teeth as I sleep.

PBIS Goes to the Dentist

PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. It is essentially a way to get kids to do what you want them to do by giving them positive reinforcement for the good things they are doing, rather than harping on them for the bad things they get caught doing. That works, for about 90% of the students, which, if you ask me, is pretty good. The other 10% need some additional help. But this story is about the dentist using PBIS on me.

I went to a new dental office called the Dental Spa. It is a spa where they have massage (vibrating) chairs, manicures, pedicures, hand, neck and face massages. I thought, maybe if I go somewhere that I can relax, I can enjoy the dentist a little more. Sure enough, while I usually cringe and wince during even simple cleanings, I felt like this was a much better experience. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t as stressed as usual, and I went home relaxed, instead of wired up. All of these little positive interactions helped me feel comfortable, happy and relaxed. It worked very well to prepare me for what was to come.

The dentist said, “You have really been taking good care of your teeth, there are no cavities!” Giving me the impression that it was my hard work that led to my mouth being cavity-free made me feel really good. I felt like I was already doing a good job, and when they said the things they usually say, I felt like I could do it, because they had already told me I was doing great work.

Since that appointment, what have I been doing? Flossing more, brushing longer, using mouthwash.

For what seems like the first time in my life, I didn’t have any cavities! They way they said it made me want to do better. Every single other experience at the dentist has just made me want to go back even less. This time, however, I was more than willing to schedule a followup in 6 months (also something I rarely do; I haven’t been to the same dentist twice in a very long time).

PBIS works on adults as well as children. Being positive is a good way to interact with everyone you deal with.

How did my Russian root canal end up? I had to have it redone, twice, back here in the states. Each visit to the endodontist was awful. Now, that tooth only hurts when it rains.

Have a Good Life.

Advice From an Experienced Principal #summerblog12

Go with your gut when hiring. Never place blame on your superiors

Since we are a Title I school in school improvement, we have a consultant who helps us. He is about 75, and was a principal for about 750 years. At the beginning of the year, he spent a lot of time talking with me and my principal about what our school was like, what our philosophies are about education, and our goals for the school. He is an extremely nice man, and very helpful.
He gave us two pieces of advice, in particular, that are really great, and have stood out to me since he said them, so I figure I should probably write them down somewhere.
  1. When you hire someone, go with your gut, because it is always right. If you feel like you shouldn’t hire someone, listen to that, because they will likely cause you nothing but drama.
  2. Never place blame on the “district” or a superior. If you can’t justify why you are doing something on your own, you shouldn’t do it.
These two pieces of information are really quite simple, but there is a lot of power behind them.
There were two people that I have been involved with in hiring in my career that really illustrate this point well (I wasn’t the one making the decision, so my feelings on this are pretty much worthless, except as it relates to this lesson from our consultant). One, I felt like we shouldn’t hire, and the other I felt like we really should, notwithstanding some warning signs. The one I didn’t feel good about, turned out to have a lot of drama in her life, and that was really sad. The one I did feel good about, turned out to be a really great employee. Since these two experiences happened to me, the advice from our consultant immediately clicked and made sense in my mind.

Follow your heart. It is usually pretty good advice.

The other one, placing blame, relates to enforcing policies and procedures with teachers. The way this makes the most sense to me is to relate it to teachers and their students. We tell teachers all the time that when they send a student to someone else to deal with the problem, they lose a lot of credibility in that student’s eyes. They lose power and authority. What is worse, when a student goes to the administrator because the teacher is at her wit’s end, the administrator cannot possibly feel the frustration that the teacher feels, and so the conversation with the principal and student is a lot less powerful than the talk would be with the teacher. The principal can’t feel the frustration, and the student doesn’t actually work out the problem he has with the teacher, so it perpetuates.

When I was doing my internship, a teacher brought a whole classroom full of students to the vice principal’s office and told them that they were not leaving until the student who had taken a pencil from another student confessed. The poor teacher was frustrated, ragged, and annoyed with her students. Truthfully, she didn’t know what else to do. She was lost and furious that there was drama over a silly little pencil, and yet, she felt this was the best way to get the kids back on task so she could teach them again. She was doing the only thing she could think of doing. The problem is that while she was so upset, the vice principal didn’t care about a pencil when he was in the middle of dealing with a drug deal that was happening at the school. He did his best to support the teacher, but he also needed to get the kids back to class and back to learning. The kids in that moment thought that their teacher didn’t know how to deal with someone stealing something, and they weren’t afraid to see the vice principal because they knew there was really nothing he could do to them. He ended up telling them to go back to class and if the pencil wasn’t where it should be by lunch time, he would sit with them during lunch in their classroom, instead of being able to go to cafeteria and then outside. Not an ideal situation to be sure, but he was very limited in his possible actions. (And, in reality, had the pencil not miraculously shown up, I would have been the one sitting with them.)

If we, as administrators do the same thing, by pointing to our superiors and saying, “Well, this comes from the district, and I can’t go against it,” we lose power. Whether or not the district really has that rule, we are showing that we don’t make the decisions, we just do what we are told. In our American culture, “Yes Men (and Women)” are looked down upon.

To be clear, our consultant wasn’t talking about times when the district actually does require us to do certain things. He was talking about things that we choose to enforce as administrators that are not actually from the district. For example, if a kid brings a weapon to school and threatens another person, it is an immediate suspension. As good as that kid may be, or as much as I may think he is swell, my hands are tied in that instance.

On the other hand, let’s say it is not a requirement in the district for someone to prepare lesson plans and submit them once a week to the principal. If I say, “The district wants me to collect your lesson plans and I need you to turn them in to me every Friday,” I lose credibility. I need to have the courage to tell my teachers that I am the one requiring it of them. If they are going to revolt and get upset, I need to either be ready for that, or I need to do a ton of front loading to get them to understand why we need what I am asking of them.

And surely, if I am going to do something that the district is not going to support, it is not really worth it for me to say the district is requiring it, because they may not like the idea at all. If the teachers do get upset and go over my head, they are certainly going to learn that the district isn’t really making me do it, and that is going to just take me away from where I want to be.
Bill Carozza posted on his blog about why educators aren't on Twitter. He gives three good reasons, but the best one is that "Technology is not intuitive for many educators." He says:
It’s not that the current generation of teachers and administrators aren’t smart enough, savvy enough, or not wanting to learn or connect. It’s simply that they haven’t seen that the juice is worth the squeeze. (emphasis in original)
He is talking about Twitter, but his ideas apply to any piece of technology that would help educators be better at their jobs.

Using a hand juicer, but imagine that is a lemon.
When I was a kid, I had a lemon tree in my front yard, and lived close to orange groves.  When we wanted juice from a lemon, we went out and picked one, and then would somehow squeeze it to get the juice. We usually only needed a little bit of juice, and so just using a small hand squeezer worked well enough for us.

Oranges were a different story. We would have a couple 50-pound bags of oranges at a time, and we wanted enough orange juice for our family of 7 kids to eat with breakfast. When that kind of task was demanded, we needed to go big! We got out the electric juicer which juiced an orange in about 1 second. We made an assembly line of where one person cut, one person juiced, one person threw away peels, one person kept pitchers close by, and one person cleaned up the spilled juice. We got through those 50-pound bags pretty quickly.

What we need to do when it comes to technology and educators is help them understand how to make the squeeze part of it much more simple. For Bill's daughter (who is 22) the squeeze is nearly natural. For some other educators (even new ones who are also 22), the squeeze is a daunting, unachievable task. It is like using a hand juicer for orange juice for 9 people. Nobody wants to do that. We need to help them use the efficient method of juicing. That will help them want to use it, and enjoy using it. They see the results faster, and there is less stress.

I don't know how to do that, but hopefully my paperless principals posts are helping in some small way.

Have a Good Life.

Paperless Principal Part 2: Memos

Automatically file memos away for safekeeping using TextExpander and Hazel.

The Memos

In our district, we are quite lucky in that the district administration has decided that all our memos go out in digital format. So, we get weekly emails, on Fridays, from someone at the district office. These emails give us everything we need to know to do our jobs. There is a lot of info to keep track of, and it is easy to fall behind and not remember everything. Luckily, memos are pretty standard. Ours look like this:


However, the naming scheme is not standardized yet, and it is difficult to find them once you have looked at them. Here is what they look like in my email.

Unreadable Memos
Unreadable Memos

The problem I run into is that I have to really search hard to find the memo after I have received it and read it. I want to be able to enter a search term in Spotlight and have that file pop up somewhere close to the top. If I search for anything that was in a memo in my mail program, I won’t find it. I have to find all the memos, and then go through all those that I am afraid to delete to find the specific memo.

We get these memos in Word, Excel, PDF, or whatever other format happens to be needed for that memo’s purpose. The main memo that explains what other memos might be follows the formatting above. For our purposes, however, it doesn’t matter much. Each department also has all the information for that department in the same place in the same format. The top-right corner has:

  • Department Name
  • Person sending Memo (a director)
  • Contact information for that person

In addition to that, each memo has “MEMO” typed at the top and center of each memo that goes out. If we didn’t get these all digitally, I would use the same process I outline below, but the renaming would take place by highlighting the department name, and using ScanSnap’s software to rename it according to what I had scanned, and then it would file it immediately.

What I Need From My System

I have two requirements for memos:

  1. Know what the memo says (I actually have to read it at some point)
  2. Know where to find it if/when I need it later.

How to Make it Happen

Here is the workflow for the folders:

Email -> Downloads folder -> Action Folder … -> Memos -> department subfolder

I save the attachments from my email and Hazel recognizes that it came from an email with the subject “Friday Memos”, and so it dutifully sends it to my Action Folder where the memos will wait for me.

The action folder is where I take action. That is where I read the memos and then rename them. It is important that I don’t get behind on this step for my workflow and for my continued employment. The ellipses in the workflow above show that I need to interact with them before they can move on.

Once I have read the memo, I rename it using TextExpander. The updated version of TextExpander allows for some great fill-in forms, which means that you can type a string (mine is /memo), and you then it will pop up with a list of options that you have predefined. For this case, it looks like this:

Aggressive Expansion
Aggressive Expansion

As you can see, there are many options to choose from. That looks like it would more difficult, but since I am already renaming by typing, I just type the first couple letters of the department and it selects that automatically. In the screenshot above, I was renaming a memo from the Department of Civil Rights and Accommodations, and so I typed “/memo ci [enter]” and it renamed it “2012–07–01 - memo - civilrights”. Pretty slick, if I do say so, myself.

Once it is renamed, in the action folder, a Hazel rule recognizes its new naming pattern and sends it off to the Memos folder. Then, in the Memos folder, a Hazel rule sorts each memo automatically into the subfolders as seen below.

The Filed Memos
The Filed Memos

In this picture, you can see that I got three memos on the same day from the Department of Partnerships and Community Service. The Hazel rule is set up to add a number to the end of the filename if the filename already exists, which means that it is easy to see what got processed first.

Why go to all this trouble? Because it took a few minutes to set up initially, and now I know where to go whenever I have a question about something I saw in a memo. I can typically remember that I saw something in a memo, and I can usually remember where that memo would have originated from. Is this perfect? Probably not. What would you change?

Have a Good Life.

The Summer Blogging Challenge

Accepted a summer blogging challenge. 

I decided to accept a challenge from Melinda Miller to blog twice a week this summer.

First, I thought I would give an update as to where I am and what I am doing.

In September of last year, I accepted a position as an assistant principal in an elementary school in my district. This is where I want to be, and it is truly amazing. I am so glad to be here. I didn't think that I would like elementary school as much as I do, but I really enjoy it. Being a middle school teacher, I didn't think that I would enjoy all these little kids, but they are a lot of fun. I do miss the conversations about ideas that you have with older students (which was still very infrequent in the middle school).

I have known for a long time that I wanted to be a school administrator. Here are the things that I love most about my job, in no particular order:

  1. Being around kids again. They are fun, and I love seeing them learn. 
  2. Helping adults and kids solve problems. We all have problems, and it doesn't take a genius to solve it, but it does take a listening ear. 
  3. Building a culture. This will happen more when I am a principal on my own, but my principal is great and shares my philosophy, so it is a ton of fun.
  4. Every day is new and exciting. One day could be filled with a lot of discipline issues, another day with a lot of teacher observations, another day with a lot of counseling with teachers or kids, another day immersed in data and interpreting and analyzing it, and another day can be a mixture of all that. I love that things change all the time. 
  5. A new perspective. Elementary school is the foundation. It is where immense learning and changes happen. Kindergartners go from having baby-fat chubby faces to losing that baby-fat while they are learning to read. It is exciting.
  6. Family atmosphere. With a smaller faculty, and fewer kids, we feel much for familial than in a middle school. That is neat to experience. I really care about these teachers and students. I feel like I still have a chance to make a difference in their lives. 
There is a lot more that I love about being here, but those are the big things for now. Some of the challenges I have faced, again, in no particular order:
  1. I still don't get elementary school. There are things that happen that I just don't pay much attention to, and I need to start getting with the program. There are other things that I notice that some elementary people don't notice, so it is a good perspective, but challenging nonetheless.
  2. Curriculum. I am learning, but it takes time to figure out literacy and how kids should learn. I don't know where I would be if I weren't in EBL last year. I learned so much there, and I am so grateful I had that opportunity to learn. 
There are more challenges, as well, but those are the big ones. 

Have a Good Life.